Have you spent time around 20-somethings lately? I presume the answer for many of you would be no. Polla and I have been privileged to have a houseful this summer. Our daughter just finished at OSU and moved back home temporarily, and two Aussie guys have been living with us as well. All three have worked as youth interns at our home church. In addition, we never know who will show up for supper or for the night. Our house has been full, and, while Polla and I have often been relegated to the formal living room, we have loved it.
It has been interesting to listen to them talk. We now have a sense of the world in which they live. It is a different world than Polla and I experienced in college and early adulthood. They face enormous challenges morally, financially and vocationally. Their opportunities are much greater, but so are the hard issues they face.
Several things have become clear about the Christian young adults we’ve been privileged to get to know. It is absolutely vital that the church connect with this age group. Many are leaving the church, but they are reachable. Churches will have to make some changes to reach and maintain them.
First, these young people don’t just go to worship-they experience it. Too often we older folks fall into our comfort zone and sing the words, listen to the sermon and go home without any real change. Young adults put themselves into worship body, soul and spirit. For them, worship must be participatory. Sounds good to me!
Second, they love truth. There is a general skepticism among many of their generation as to whether there is absolute truth. Actually, most them can be led to absolute truth-they simply are not as willing to accept it just because someone in authority states it. They have grown up in a world where everything is placed under a microscope, and they have been challenged to take nothing for granted. But the Christian young adults I have met are as passionate about the Truth as older generations. Their acceptance of Truth is based on thoughtful examination. They know why they believe. They have compared worldly truth against biblical Truth and found it wanting.
Third, they are doers and not hearers only. Generations of Baptists have been willing to hear about needs, give money and pray-but most have been unwilling to go. Today’s young people want no part of a faith that is all talk and no go. They are ready to spend a week, a month or a lifetime pouring out their lives to meet spiritual and physical needs of others. Baptist young people are serving in some of the most remote and difficult places in the world. They do not see it as sacrifice but an adventure with a cause-the cause of the Gospel.
Fourth, they are interested in the physical and economic needs of others. Baptists have often shied away from “social gospel” issues because too many examples were more “social” than “Gospel.” This generation is committed to alleviating the ills of the world. They will give and serve to relieve poverty, homelessness, abuse and countless other problems. They will give and go to feed the hungry in Africa, build and maintain orphanages and provide homes for abused girls who have been made sex slaves. They are willing to center all of this in the Gospel.
My summer around these 20-somethings has made me glad. I rejoice in their level of commitment. I am challenged to lead our churches to engage this group and give them abundant channels of service in our Baptist churches and mission work. Far from being disengaged, this group is full of potential to serve Christ in a powerful way.